Have you ever read a book that immediately piqued your interest? One that you just couldn’t put down? My latest “must finish quickly” book was Eleanor & Park, and what hooked me, besides the immediately engaging story line, was that I listened to it as an audiobook and was therefore able to listen to it while I was doing other things. (The version I listened to was through OverDrive, but this title is also available as a print book and a book on cd – same narrators too!)
Eleanor & Park tells the story of the two title characters: Eleanor, a red-haired chubby high school student starting at a new school, who runs into Park, a kid right on the cusp of the cool crowd, but not firmly implanted there. Eleanor feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere, especially at her new school or at home. and Park feels like she doesn’t belong at their school either. Despite himself, Park finds himself falling for Eleanor, a situation that she has trouble with since she can’t possibly believe or see why this perfect Asian boy with the perfect family would ever fall for a mess like her, living with her mother, abusive step-father, and four siblings in a tiny house. This book is set over the course of one school year in 1986 with readers getting an intense look into Eleanor and Park’s budding relationship and daily lives as they struggle with trying to fit in and the strange sweetness and intense hold that first love has on them. This book pulled at my heart strings, making me pull for Eleanor and Park to beat the odds.
What really hooked me about this book was the narrators. Their voices perfectly matched the characters that I envisioned in my head with earnest emotion shining through both voices. Their inflections as both narrators mimicked the different people in both Eleanor and Park’s lives had me present, immediately in the story with them: sitting on the top bunk in Eleanor’s room while she read the comic books and listened to the tapes that Park gave her, and watching Park as he only asked for batteries for Christmas, so he could continue to give Eleanor music to listen to. I couldn’t get enough and finished this audiobook in two days. Check this book out, either in print or audio, and let me know what you think!
What would you do if you were thrust into a situation that you initially thought you could control, but then you found out that everyone who had prepared you had either lied to you or had been unaware of a certain MAJOR event? Would you panic? Would you want to tell everyone about the secret you just learned about? This is the predicament that newly-elected President Stephen Blades finds himself in on his very first day in office in Letter 44, Volume 1: Escape Velocity.
In this first volume, President Blades is ushered into the oval office to find a letter for him from the previous President. Opening the letter and expecting to have to dive headfirst into fixing the critical issues facing the nation caused by President Carroll, Blades instead discovers the one singular event and reason behind the country’s involvement in two major wars, the economy collapsing, and the healthcare system to be failing. It’s a national and world secret that only a handful of people are aware of: seven years ago, NASA discovered an alien presence in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, one that was able to cloak itself somehow and had the potential to be dangerous. In order to learn more about this, a team of 9 astronauts made up of both military members and scientists was sent into space to discover what is really going on.
This graphic novel divides focus between Blades and the group of astronauts who are almost to their destination. As the astronauts prepare to reach their destination, you learn their ship, the Clarke, is becoming increasingly damaged and should not have been sent on this mission so quickly. Secrets abound both in the air and on the ground, leaving readers to wonder what really is the truth and showing that President Stephen Blades has the ultimate power in his hands. All that’s left is for him to decide what to do with it.
Stay tuned for a review from Volume 2 (and be on the lookout for Volume 3)!
Orphan Black is an action thriller television series that debuted in 2013 on BBC America. The fourth season is set to begin in April 2016.
Orphan Black begins by introducing viewers to Sarah Manning, a woman back in the states and on the run from an abusive relationship who is trying to get in contact with her young daughter whom she hasn’t seen in over 10 months. She’s getting ready to take the train when she sees a woman commit suicide right in front of her. Interesting twist: this woman looks exactly like Sarah. She decides to assume the dead woman’s identity and lets herself into the woman’s apartment.
Everything seems to be working out perfectly when she realizes the woman has $75,000 in the bank. She decides to drain the woman’s bank account and then skip town with her daughter and her foster brother. Her plans are cut short when unfinished business from both the dead woman’s past and her own past come barreling into her life, leading Sarah down a deadly trail of thrilling mystery that all lead her to the stunning conclusion: she is a clone, there are more of her out there, and that someone is trying to kill all of them. Sarah has no choice but to continue to live a double life as herself and the dead woman, as she meets other clones and realizes that they are all entangled in a complicated plot as genetically identical individuals who all grew up in very different circumstances.
Highlighted by a tour de force performance by Tatiana Maslany (she plays all of the clones, giving each of them distinct personalities, speech patterns and behaviors), this is compulsive television viewing.
A brand new movie to hit the theaters recently is The 5th Wave. This movie is one of many young adult books that have been made into movies with producers and directors hoping to score big with both young adult readers and fans of somewhat dystopic literature. In order to fully prepare myself for the movie, I decided to dive into the book to see if I liked it.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey is the first book in a trilogy (the second book is The Infinite Sea, but the third book, The Last Star, won’t be released until May 24, 2016!). The 5th Wave concentrates on the life of Cassie Sullivan, a teenage girl living with her mother, father, and brother when things start to change. While she’s in school, everything goes dark. All the lights go out and everything electronic stops working. Looking up into the sky, they see a giant ship. An alien invasion has begun.
The Earth is quickly decimated by the alien invasion. Cassie realizes that everything is happening in waves, the largest of which is when a plague is unleashed killing the majority of the world’s population, including her mother. Leaving their home, Cassie, her brother, and father are forced to rely on each other. When further tragedy strikes, Cassie is left to rescue her brother and to keep her promise. The problem is, she has no idea where he might be, only a vague idea that he could be at an army base. On her way to rescue him, Cassie is forced to confront the idea that the aliens may have been living amongst the human population for years and that the very person she has come to trust most could actually be an alien.
I found this book to be extremely intriguing because alongside Cassie’s story, Yancey designates different sections to other characters, so you are able to see how the invasion affects people besides Cassie as well. This adds depth to the book, which I really enjoyed. Check out this book or see the movie and let me know what you think!
Sometimes you just need to take a break from the superhero comics and step into something completely different. If you happen to be in that mood, join me and check out Lady Killer. This graphic novel will be a refreshing break from those men in tights comics who insist on saving the damsel in distress. (Be sure to read the introduction – It’s something you definitely don’t want to miss!)
In Lady Killer, readers are introduced to Josie Schuller, a 1950s housewife who seems to have everything: a fantastic husband, two adorable daughters, and perfect domestic bliss. She does have all that, plus much more! Josie also works outside the home without her husband even realizing what she really does. She isn’t just a lady who goes door-to-door selling Avon though. Josie is a killer.
Yes, I said that right. She’s a killer, an assassin to be specific. Josie doesn’t kill people the way you would expect a lady killer to either. She’s not afraid to get dirty, even though she may seem a little bit delicate with her perfectly done makeup and outfits. Josie is ruthless and has been with the agency for 15 years, performing assassinations whenever asked. Now that she has a family and is working to keep up her picture-perfect life at home, her employers are starting to worry that maybe her priorities are no longer “correctly” in order the way they wish. As a result, Josie soon finds her life to be under attack and she is forced to decide how she really wants her life to be, while hopefully keeping her family blissfully unaware of what mommy really does all day long.
If this description caught your attention and you’re looking for something similar, check out Miss Meadows. This movie stars Katie Holmes as Miss Meadows, a perfect, prim, and proper school teacher who under the surface is a vigilante who seeks to right all the wrongs in the world however she can and with any means necessary, like a vigilante Mary Poppins. Right on par with Lady Killer.
Ant-Man is a Marvel creation that most recently came out as a movie starring Paul Rudd as Scott Lang and Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym. Dr. Pym was the original Ant-Man, the one who discovered the Pym Particle, a substance that had the ability to shrink items, most importantly a suit. He became Ant-Man and his wife became the Wasp. After a devastating accident, Dr. Pym hid away the formula and the process to find the Pym Particle, locking the suit away.
Flash forward to the present and viewers are introduced to Scott Lang, a burglar who has just been released from jail and is trying to turn his life around so that he can be in his daughter’s life. His roommate and a few friends approach him with the chance of a lifetime: they heard about a rich man who has a safe in his basement and if Scott can crack it, then they will be set financially for a long time. This heist changes Scott’s life and puts him in the sightline of a very powerful man, former Ant-Man Dr. Pym. Giving Scott a chance to reform his life and atone for his past crimes, Dr. Pym presents him with the opportunity to protect the Ant-Man suit and the formula from a group of scientists who wish to harness the power for dubious reasons. Dr. Pym mentors Scott in the ways to use the suit and how to harness all of its powers, while Scott works to change his life for the better. This movie is an excellent introduction to the background of Ant-Man and provides viewers with some pretty spectacular effects, while also keeping the mood light yet fill of action and adventure.
Moving further down the timeline is Nick Spencer’s Ant-Man. In this volume, Ant-Man is older, somewhat more mature, and has worked with a variety of other superheroes. Just because he’s older doesn’t mean he has become a better superhero though. Throughout this graphic novel, it’s pointed out to Scott that he isn’t even the best Ant-Man and that some people still think he’s dead.
Scott is still trying to better his life and provide for his daughter, something that this graphic novel shows has not been without some significant difficulty. Scott thinks he has it made when Iron Man calls and offers him a job, but quickly realizes that he’s only one of many candidates and just because he’s worked with Iron Man before doesn’t mean he is going to get the job. The realization that his ex-wife is moving with his daughter to Florida and a rumble with an old foe throws Scott off-balance, leaving him to try a new business venture that takes Scott and his family down a dangerous path where he is forced to see that what he thinks is right for his family and what is actually right for his family are two very different things.
What I liked best about this graphic novel is that if you are confused about something that is happening, the writers have written in explanations and have also provided you with the issue numbers of the different graphic novels that will help you to fill in the holes. Plus Scott does a lot of reflective thinking, so that helps. It’s brilliant! Check out this graphic novel for a more sarcastic and humanized approach to a superhero who is just trying to get his life together.
Have you ever seen a preview and told yourself you would never watch the movie? That’s how I felt with The Age of Adaline. The premise seemed unbelievable and the whole idea far-fetched. One day, however, someone told me I should really check it out because the movie was better than what the preview presented. Thus begins my falling in adoration of The Age of Adaline.
The Age of Adaline follows the life of young Adaline Bowman and her decades long endeavor to keep her real identity hidden from everyone. This necessitates having to move every decade and to change her identity. Adaline Bowman was in a near-death car crash when she was 29 that left her unable to age. Having remained 29 for almost eighty decades, Adaline has managed to keep her identity a secret by following a set of rules she has written for herself. She steers away from love, chooses friends wisely, and never tells anyone her real name – well except for one person, but that was years in the past.
In present day, Adaline manages to keep all of her promises until she meets Ellis Jones, a philanthropist who works his way fully into her life. Adaline soon finds herself having to deal with the clashing of her past and her present when a weekend trip to his parents’ house brings up memories that she would like to leave behind. This trip changes her life forever and forces her to come face-to-face with her destiny, whatever she chooses it to be.
A theme that seems to be present in most of the materials I have been reading recently is the apocalypse and the end of the world. ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times is no exception. Aria is stuck alone on the planet at the end of the world with only a cat named Jelly Beans as her companion. She discovered tunnels under this overgrown city and has transformed them into her living chambers. Although Aria is by herself, she has a mission to complete and one important part of this is to find working parts to transform Gus, a giant robot machine, back into working order.
Aria’s main mission? To find an ancient relic with immeasurable power called the Grand Photon. This gift from above is perfect energy because of its ability and power to transform an entire planet into a veritable Garden of Eden. History says, though, that the inhabitants of this planet had used the Grand Photon for evil, harnessing its power and weaponizing it, which eventually led to the scorching of the planet and the killing of almost every living thing. Aria was sent to this planet for what she thought would be three months, armed with a tracking device on her arm, to find the Grand Photon. Those three months turned into six years.
Andrew MacLean has put together a beautifully illustrated story about a young woman’s struggle in an action-packed adventure comic about the extremes of humanity and how even in a world that has been completely ravaged by war, we still long for a place to call our home. The artwork is bright and reminiscent of manga with woodblock art and a very-detailed, almost old American comic feel to it. Through the first few pages, it definitely becomes apparent that this story takes place not in this time period, but the art has you wanting to pay close attention to the vividness of each color and the different story lines. This graphic novel is not overly filled with back story; MacLean chooses instead to give us glimpses of history through Aria’s streaming consciousness, in essence she is talking to herself and through this talking, readers are privy to a much-needed-to-know history. With no one to talk to on this planet, Aria would naturally keep a running commentary in her head and also with her cat, Jelly Beans. This graphic novel was both serious and humorous; two things that if done right, work perfectly together.
After the tragic passing of Robin Williams on August 11, 2014, I found myself going back and watching some of my favorite movies that he starred in (Can’t get enough of that genie in Aladdin and Good Will Hunting has Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, AND Robin Williams, so you can’t pass that up!). I also found myself wondering what would be his last movie, found this article detailing what they would be, and made a note to check them out. I was finally able to check one of them out! One of his last movies was Boulevard, starring Williams as Nolan Mack, a married, yet closeted, bank employee in his 60s and what happens when he decides to take a different way home one night.
Nolan has a lot on his plate. He has been working at the same bank for 25 years, has been offered a promotion to branch manager which requires a lot of prep work, and has an elderly father in the hospital. His home life seems to be idyllic, except for the tiny fact that he and his wife, Joy, sleep in separate bedrooms and seem to have entirely separate lives. On his way home after visiting his father in the hospital, Nolan finds himself driving down an unfamiliar street. Sitting at a red light, he decides to turn around. After almost hitting a young man crossing the street, Nolan offers the young man a ride to wherever he was heading, discovers he’s a prostitute, and finds himself in a hotel room with young Leo, confronting issues in his life that he had hoped to keep buried. Needing Leo in his life more than he realizes, Nolan soon finds himself deviating from the comforting and familiar bearings of his life, his work, and his marriage in order to fully become his true self.
How far would you be willing to go to keep your family together? To get your dream house? To provide a life for your children that you never had? Would you hunt for your dream job? Would you steal? Would you jeopardize your own future to make sure your children have whatever they want? All of these are questions that Sophie Potter has to deal with in Sonya Cobb’s new novel, The Objects of Her Affection.
In The Objects of Her Affection, Sophie finds herself home alone with two young children, wanting to give them the house and the childhood that she never had growing up. She bounced from apartment to apartment as a child, moving when her mother found new work. After her father figure died, her mother skipped town, leaving Sophie to fend for herself.
With her husband ensconced and buried within his work as a museum curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and with her own career at a standstill after the birth of their two children, Sophie finds herself floundering for support and yet in charge of all the bills and the family’s well-being. After she finds her dream house and convinces her husband of its potential worth, he leaves her in charge of figuring out the whole mortgage and loan business. After signing up for what she believes to be the best offer, Sophie soon realizes that that deal was too good to be true after notices and bills keep showing up at her door, she actually can’t afford the mortgage payment each month, and the business can’t track down who actually owns her loan.
Frustrated, she visits her husband at work to tell him about the mess she’s in and accidentally slips a piece of museum property in her purse. Not wanting to get him into trouble, she decides to sell the piece. Shocked at the amount of money she gets, Sophie sees that she can afford to keep up on all of the bills using that money without having to tell her husband about the mess she has put them in. Sneaking more objects out of her husband’s office gives her a thrill and a sense of satisfaction that she has been missing since the birth of her children, but once the museum realizes pieces are missing and the FBI comes to interview everyone, Sophie is forced to make a choice between telling the truth and keeping her dream afloat by stealing yet another museum piece. The Objects of Her Affection gives readers an up-close look at the lengths people will go through to keep their families together, just how dangerous keeping secrets can be, and how giving up is never an option.